Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Re: Interview

Expand Messages
  • TMollerup
    Steve, You mentioned below that MITS was going to place a Motorola 68000 into production, but closed its doors before doing so. I had previously assumed the
    Message 1 of 7 , Sep 8, 2003
    • 0 Attachment
      Steve,

      You mentioned below that MITS was going to place a Motorola 68000
      into production, but closed its doors before doing so. I had
      previously assumed the Altair 680 was just that. What is the
      difference between the 8800 and the 680? Additionally, what is the
      8800b? Thank you for taking the time to write-up the message below,
      and for answering my questions. This forum is rich with information.

      Todd Mollerup

      --- In altaircomputerclub@yahoogroups.com, alltare <no_reply@y...>
      wrote:
      > Another right time/right place thing that made the Altair the first
      > *commercially viable* computer was Altair BASIC. Bill and Paul
      > developed this high level programming language shortly after the
      > introduction of the Altair, and specifically for it (no, they
      didn't
      > invent BASIC- I think Dartmouth College did that. But they did
      write
      > the Altair version). It was the first affordable functional
      language
      > that took users beyond machine and assembler programming. This
      > allowed business software to be developed more easily (accounting,
      > word processing, etc.), and the Altair became the first business
      > computer too. When the market grew beyond hobbyists, the horizon
      was
      > greatly expanded. If it werent for cash flow problems and then the
      > Pertec takeover and mismanagement, MITS might well still be a major
      > PC manufacturer. It's not generally known, but MITS had a machine
      > based on Motorola's 68000 CPU ready to go into production when
      Pertec
      > closed the doors. This would have beaten the Macintosh to the
      market
      > by years. Rumor had it that there was also a 50MHz machine in
      > development. Remember that this was in the days when 4MHz was
      > screamingly fast.
      >
      > MITS put companies other than Microsoft on the map. I believe
      > Peachtree Software still exists. Their accounting software was
      > originally written for the Altair, under MITS' name. Of course,
      any
      > company that made Altair/S-100 buss hardware could trace its roots
      to
      > MITS. MITS printed the first PC magazine long befor "Byte" and
      > sponsored the first personal computer exposition long before
      COMDEX.
      > Not bad for a company that closed its doors after selling computers
      > for only about five years.
      >
      > Steve
      > ==============================
      >
      > --- In altaircomputerclub@yahoogroups.com, "stevenaleach"
      > <leachm003@h...> wrote:
      > > I would suggest, if you can find it, pick up a copy of Stephen
      > Levy's book "Hackers -
      > > Heros of the computer revolution". This is a terrific book that
      > covers computer
      > > history beginning with the Tech Model Railroad club at MIT in the
      > early 1960's on
      > > through the Altair, Apple, IBM PC, etc.
      > >
      > > > I am a high school student doing research for a history project
      > on
      > > > the development of the personal computer. Through my research,
      I
      > > > have found that the MITS Altair 8800 is considered the first
      > > > microcomputer. I found this group and thought someone here
      might
      > be
      > >
      > > Just to put things in perspective, as I'm sure many people will
      > point out, the the Altair
      > > was not actually the first personal computer, or even the first
      > commercially produced
      > > personal computer. The Mark 8 for example was a personal
      computer
      > that just barely
      > > predated the Altair, it was based on the intel 8008 processor.
      > Plans for the Mark 8
      > > ran in another national electronics magazine, and full schematic
      > plans and even
      > > printed circuit boards could be ordered. Other machines were
      > created by hobbiests,
      > > even some based off of the intel 4004, and others with no
      > microprocessor at all that
      > > were built entirely from TTL logic circuits. There were several
      > commercially produced
      > > machines that could be considered hobbiest/personal computers
      that
      > predated the
      > > altair was well. There were even publications for homebrew
      > computer hobbiests at
      > > the time that the Altair was created.
      > >
      > > The Altair does hold a very important place in history however.
      > Basically it was a
      > > matter of the right place at the right time. The 8080 processor
      > was powerful enough
      > > for a very useful machine where it's predecessor the 8008 was
      > rather limited. The
      > > Altair came at a time when the components were available *just*
      > easily enough, and
      > > the prices *just* low enough to make hobbiest computers
      practical,
      > especially since
      > > Ed Roberts managed to work out a deal with Intel to buy
      > cosmetically damaged 8080
      > > processors for $75 a piece when the normal price was $360 a
      piece.
      > (the $360 price
      > > was an intentional pun on the IBM system 360 computer). Consider
      > also that unlike
      > > the Mark 8, you could get a kit complete with every part you
      > needed. With the Mark
      > > 8, you essentially got schematics, boards if you ordered them,
      and
      > a shopping list.
      > >
      > > The Altair also provided a logical expansion bus which was
      probably
      > one of it's most
      > > important attributes. The Altair bus, later called the S-100 bus
      > by IMSAI, was pretty
      > > much the standard for personal computers until the IBM PC came
      > along and
      > > eventually ended the world of hobbiest computers. The S-100 bus
      > made expansion
      > > hardware by other manufacturers possible. The Altair was also
      > produced and sold in
      > > large enough numbers to create a worthwhile market for hardware
      and
      > programs. It's
      > > sort of the chicken and egg thing.
      > >
      > > Oh, and it seems that the Altair bus might never have existed if
      it
      > weren't for the fact
      > > that the original prototype that was shipped to Popular
      Electronics
      > got lost. Ed
      > > Roberts had originally designed the altair as a set of boards
      > stacked on top of each
      > > other with spacers in between. This is how the machine that was
      > sent to PE was set
      > > up, he went on to make some changes, including the bus because it
      > was neater and
      > > cleaner than the ribbon cables. The Altair on the PE cover (you
      > can see a picture of it
      > > on the home page here) is actually a mockup since the real
      > prototype got lost. There
      > > is nothing inside that box.
      > >
      > > You should consider too that the Altair came out when there was
      > still a thriving
      > > interest in home electronic projects in this country. It was
      often
      > cheaper to build your
      > > own equipment thant to buy it. This is no longer the case, and
      > our attention spans
      > > have collapsed so much, and our desire for instant gratification
      > has become so great
      > > that this is no longer possible. Heathkit is no more, they are
      out
      > of business. Radio
      > > shack barely carries electronic components anymore (Try finding
      > basic 7400 series
      > > chips at a Radio Shack anymore). Once again, the Altair came
      about
      > at the right time.
    • Larry T.
      ... Todd The 8800B was an upgraded 8800. MITS improved the powersupply, included a full chasis monterboard (instead of 4 slots then adding on 4 slots at a
      Message 2 of 7 , Sep 8, 2003
      • 0 Attachment
        --- In altaircomputerclub@yahoogroups.com, TMollerup <no_reply@y...>
        wrote:
        > Steve,
        >
        > You mentioned below that MITS was going to place a Motorola 68000
        > into production, but closed its doors before doing so. I had
        > previously assumed the Altair 680 was just that. What is the
        > difference between the 8800 and the 680? Additionally, what is the
        > 8800b? Thank you for taking the time to write-up the message below,
        > and for answering my questions. This forum is rich with information.
        >
        > Todd Mollerup
        >

        Todd

        The 8800B was an 'upgraded' 8800. MITS improved the powersupply,
        included a full chasis monterboard (instead of 4 slots then adding on
        4 slots at a time).

        The 680 was a totally different design using the Motorola 6800 8-bit
        processor. MITS had a full line of cards for this system using a
        different bus layout. The main board had the CPU and front panel
        logic on it (and I think some RAM) then the chassis had a vertical
        mother borad instead of horizontal like the 8800's.
        Larry
      • TMollerup
        Ahh. Larry. That clears up years of confusion. Now I understand that the 68000 and the 6800 are not the same. Seeing both, I had assumed as a kid, the last
        Message 3 of 7 , Sep 8, 2003
        • 0 Attachment
          Ahh. Larry. That clears up years of confusion. Now I understand that
          the 68000 and the 6800 are not the same. Seeing both, I had assumed
          as a kid, the last zero was optional, much the way people would say
          version 3 vs. version 3.0. I should have assumed different. Of
          course, when I was in high school (I'm 36), it was difficult to find
          information. The libraries were behind the times and the teachers
          knew little. At my boarding school, we pushed them. One of the upper
          classmen put together a Timex Sinclair Z-80 if I remember the name
          correctly. Everyone circled around him in his dorm room, not only
          because he had a Timex computer, but he had the best soldering iron
          in the dorm.

          I put together a little kit computer my Physics teacher though would
          feed my thirst. I don't remember much about the procesor used in the
          kit, but I loved the 8 bit LED binary readout. Just the counting
          routine was wonderful. It made binary crystal clear, which certainly
          has helped me over my life time. (Surprisingly, most computer people
          don't understand something as basic as binary)

          Well, now I understand that the 6800 (6809) was the 8-bit processor
          and the 68000 was the 16-bit. I remember everyone, back in the 80's,
          putting down the 8088 design. Microsoft even seemed to support the
          idea of a complete migration away from the platform with the hardware
          abstration layer (HAL) introduced with Windows NTAS 3.1.

          When I bought my Altair in 2000, I was hoping to continue learning
          about basic processor operation, in addition to owning a piece of
          history. I would be picking-up where I left off in high school. I
          have been in technology my whole life, and feel I'll be missing out
          if I don't someday learn how to toggle data into a processor.
        • Larry T.
          ... that ... find ... upper ... 80 s, ... hardware ... Your Altair is still a good tool. That is why I will be keeping several different versions running
          Message 4 of 7 , Sep 9, 2003
          • 0 Attachment
            --- In altaircomputerclub@yahoogroups.com, TMollerup <no_reply@y...>
            wrote:
            > Ahh. Larry. That clears up years of confusion. Now I understand
            that
            > the 68000 and the 6800 are not the same. Seeing both, I had assumed
            > as a kid, the last zero was optional, much the way people would say
            > version 3 vs. version 3.0. I should have assumed different. Of
            > course, when I was in high school (I'm 36), it was difficult to
            find
            > information. The libraries were behind the times and the teachers
            > knew little. At my boarding school, we pushed them. One of the
            upper
            ...

            > Well, now I understand that the 6800 (6809) was the 8-bit processor
            > and the 68000 was the 16-bit. I remember everyone, back in the
            80's,
            > putting down the 8088 design. Microsoft even seemed to support the
            > idea of a complete migration away from the platform with the
            hardware
            > abstration layer (HAL) introduced with Windows NTAS 3.1.

            Your Altair is still a good tool. That is why I will be keeping
            several different versions running myself.

            As far as the 6800/6809/68000:
            MITS and SWTP (Southwest Technical Products) both had 6800 systems
            Of course, Apple, Atari, and Comodore had 6502 systems.
            I do not know if anyone had 6809 systems, the 6809 as a very strange
            beast indeed. I'm not sure, but it may have been the 8088 of the 68000
            family.
            The 68000 ended up in the Apple Lisa and Macintosh family, Atari
            ST/TT/Falcon family and the Comodore Amiga family
            The 8088 was an 8-bit bus version of the 8086, which was the parent of
            the 80x86 and Pentium CPU familys from Intel. (If you look back to
            articles when the IBM PC was introduced, Intel made statements to the
            effect that they did not know the 8088 was a 16-bit chip!)
          Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.